In Theaters 07.26.2024 or Watch at Home 02.28.2025


Directed by Oliver Schmitz
Film Movement Classics
104 Minutes
South Africa
English, Zulu, Afrikaans
Classics, Black Cinema, Crime, Drama
Not Rated

During demonstrations in apartheid-era South Africa, the police arrest Panic (Thomas Mogotlane), a “mapantsula” or petty gangster, while rounding up activists. His interrogation reveals the motivation for his involvement in the township riots. Once only concerned with partying, alcohol and his own interests, Panic finds himself being irreversibly pulled into the fray. Now, he is forced to choose between his personal freedom and taking a stand in the fight against the oppressive apartheid government.

Directed by Oliver Schmitz and written by Schmitz and lead actor Thomas Mogotlane, MAPANTSULA has been hailed as the “first South African film to truly represent apartheid onscreen” (Okayafrica). Banned in its homeland and made while evading the local authorities, the film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes and went on to be selected as the South African entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Widely considered one of the most influential African motion pictures of all time, MAPANTSULA has been newly restored in 4K from the original 35MM negative.

Director & Cast

  • Director: Oliver Schmitz
  • Starring: Thomas Mogotlane
  • Starring: Marcel van Heerden
  • Starring: Thembi Mtshali-Jones
  • Starring: Dolly Rathebe

Where to Watch




  • "A devastating attack on apartheid... A moral drama in disguise...Our conscience and sense of outrage are ripped open...."
    Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times
  • "Banned in South Africa upon release, the film conveys a volatile sense of both time and place...."
    Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
  • "It gets far closer to the sights, sounds, smells and rhythms of Soweto life than an entire Attenborough of white liberal movies. Needless to say, it's banned from SA cinema screens."
    Time Out
  • "Mapantsula has been called “the first anti-apartheid feature film by, for and about black South Africans”.... Mapantsula is so vibrant and vivid that you can practically smell the streets of Soweto."
    Nicholas Barber, BBC Culture
  • "A Trojan Horse of a film – an attack on apartheid disguised as a gangster thriller – Mapantsula, with its political rallies and toyi-toying, highlighted the indignities and injustices Black South Africans were experiencing. And yet, it showed that all around, life still continued; there was vitality, even as the struggle for freedom drew on."
    Nadia Neophytou, okayafrica
  • "In true renegade spirit, ''Mapantsula'' was made semicovertly (the script shown to censors was for an ordinary gangster film), and it feels more authentic and less contrived than other South African films.... The interaction between blacks and whites in street scenes, the day-to-day routine of life in a black neighborhood, and the galvanizing spirit of black South African music are all powerfully felt."
    Janet Maslin, The New York Times

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